At Baccalaureate, Class of 2021 Encouraged to Give Back, Take Risks

Trustee Emeriti and higher education authority Charles Terrell '70.
By Kardelen Koldas '15
May 23, 2021

The 200th Baccalaureate, held May 22 on Miller Lawn, brought together students and faculty to mark the end of the academic careers of the Class of 2021 and celebrate a year that included extraordinary sacrifices by the entire Colby community. 

“As you reflect on this journey,” President David A. Greene told the students, “I hope you do so with deep pride and satisfaction, with an appreciation for your potential to reach far beyond anyone’s expectations, and without ever forgetting that success comes in many forms, with every version requiring a team effort. We don’t walk these journeys alone.”

The 513 members of the Class of 2021 hail from 36 states and 21 countries and include a broad array of dynamic scholars, leaders, and engaged citizens. They have seized the enormous opportunities made available to them at Colby and stand on the cusp of graduation remarkably well-prepared to contribute their talents and intelligence to a wide range of fields.

SGA's president Ashlee Guevara '21 and vice president Sam Rosenstein '21
SGA’s president Ashlee Guevara ’21 and vice president Sam Rosenstein ’21

“There were many who doubted we would ever make it to this point,” Greene continued. “Here we are. Our doubters didn’t understand the strength of this community—and they certainly didn’t know the Class of 2021. Your leadership set the tone for this year, and I will be forever grateful for that.”

Leaders such as Student Government Association president Ashlee Guevara ’21 and vice president Sam Rosenstein ’21, who shared their reflections and unique stories as well as the importance of the moment.

The graduating Class of 2021 represents 513 different stories about how we arrived at Colby, a place that is so familiar for some, but yet so foreign for many others,” said Rosenstein. “A place that has forced us all to grow in countless ways and to become as Dean Karlene [Burrell-McRae ’94] will often say, ‘better versions of ourselves.’” 

“College for me, like so many others where I come from, is not a given, or the obvious next step after high school,” said Guevara. “When I dreamt of going to college, I knew that it would be a moment of success, not only for myself, pero también para mi familia [but also for my family], who have not yet experienced what it means to go to college.”  

Providing access to higher education for talented students like Guevera and thousands of others across the globe is one of Colby’s strongest commitments. It’s a commitment shared by Charles Terrell ’70, the baccalaureate speaker, who has spent his career helping underrepresented groups gain access to higher education.

Terrell, who in 1969 was the founding member and the first president of the student group Students Organized for Black Unity (now Students Organized for Black and Latinx Unity), recounted a story from his senior year at Colby in which then-Dean of Students Earl Smith helped change the trajectory of his life and attend graduate school. 

“There’s a moral to this story,” Terrell emphasized. “He asked me to pay it forward, which I have tried to do over the last 50 years in as many ways as I am able.”

Terrell took a risk coming to Colby “sight unseen 55 years ago … and received a fine education,” he said. “I hope that you continue to dare northward,” he beckoned the seniors, “taking meaningful risk for the rest of your life.”

The ceremony also included readings by Class Marshal Huan Bui ’21 and Genesis Cazalez-Contreras ’21. Also offering readings were retiring faculty members Sandy Maisel, the Goldfarb Family Distinguished Professor of American Government, and James R. Fleming, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Science, Technology, and Society.

On Sunday, May 23, seniors and their invited guests will gather on Miller Lawn for Colby’s 200th Commencement, the culminating ceremony celebrating the academic achievements of the Class of 2021.

Terrell, along with The Lost Kitchen restaurateur and advocate for Maine women Erin French, Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Michael Rosbash P’08, and award-winning Penobscot basketmaker Theresa Secord will receive honorary degrees from College. The commencement address will be delivered by Richard Blanco, a renowned poet and artistic visionary, who received an honorary degree from Colby in 2014.

Replay the full Baccalaureate ceremony here.